Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My first $200

That's a $200 bill (worth about $6 US). I got it in change today and it's the first one I've ever seen (the common denominations of paper money in Taiwan are $100, $500 and $1,000). That's Chiang Kai-shek on the front; the Presidential building in Taipei is on the reverse side.

I wonder why it is that governments mint or print certain denominations in such small quantities that most people seldom encounter them. Living in the United States, I hardly ever saw $2 bills, but the Mint must be printing enough every year to keep the (small) supply up. I wonder why the government doesn't either just discontinue it. or print enough so that they're circulated as much as the $1 and $5.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Maokong Gondola

We went to Maokong this weekend. Maokong's a mountainous area just outside of the city, full of little tea shops, amazing views and a temperature that's a few degrees cooler than downtown Taipei. In the past we had to wait for a rather inconvenient bus or pay for a taxi ride, but this month the Taipei MRT opened the Maokong Gondola - actually a cable car - with four stops, running from Taipei Zoo MRT Station up to Maokong in the mountains.

The cable cars are quiet, run very smoothly, and were less crowded than I expected - I'd heard of 40-minute waits the previous weekend. This may be because we went up in the late afternoon and came back in the evening. It may also be because, the previous day, a mechanical failure stranded several hundred people high up in the air for several hours. (We don't read the local news quite as much as we should, and we didn't hear about this until after we got back. In retrospect, it explains a lot, including why gondola staff members seemed so nice to everybody, profusely thanking everybody for their patronage.)
This is a very blurry picture of the Taipei Zoo gondola station, but...

...here is a somewhat clearer picture, showing where people are boarding the cars.
This is one of the service stations between actual gondola stops. The cable cars don't stop here, but these stations are manned by MRT employees.

The view, looking down.

Taipei in the late afternoon.

Here's a view of the Maokong scenery from the cable car.
One more view of Taipei.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


It's time to post some pictures from my Penghu trip. These are a bit late, but I was distracted by a bad case of sunburn I got (my feet were so badly burned they required professional medical attention; they're healing well now) and by my own procrastination habit.

Maokong is the biggest city in Penghu - not that it's really such a large city. I got the feeling it would be a lot smaller if not for the tourist trade. It has at least one Starbucks.

We took a boat like this to Chipei on Monday. Chipei is where I had my first snorkeling experience.
The main town on Chipei. Chipei's a tiny island which is settled by people living off tourists - I imagine it becomes something of a ghost town in winter.
We saw dragon boat races on Tuesday morning. These pictures were taken at the harbor in Maokong. Three boats competed, and there was a fairly decent-sized crowd.
The beach on the main island in Penghu where we went snorkeling on Tuesday. The area over by the rocks in the distance is where Jenna and I found squid, cuttlefish, puffer fish, and other assorted creatures. Just a stone's throw from dry land.

The Matsu Temple in Penghu. It's said to be the oldest temple in all of Taiwan by some guidebooks (the English-language signs outside only claim it's the oldest Matsu temple in Taiwan). I'm sure much of the original structure has been replaced since it was built in the 1600s, but you can see some old woodwork and art inside.

A gnarled tree outside the Matsu temple.